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5 Exciting Day Trips Around Pensacola, Florida

While Pensacola is full of adventure opportunities, countless day trips are nearby. These activities may just be what you need to add to your itinerary to create one epic journey.

With so many options, deciding which excursions you’ll enjoy the most can be difficult. Picking the wrong experience means you’re wasting your time and money.

Lucky for you, we’ve found five of the best day trips around Pensacola. So dive in and see where you should visit in the Sunshine State.

Let’s explore!

Fort Pickens is an excellent day trip from Pensacola

Limestone leaks onto the brick arches and walls of an exterior casemate in historic Fort Pickens in Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola Beach, Florida.
Fort Pickens is a short drive from Pensacola

About Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola sits on the Gulf of Mexico in the panhandle of Florida. It’s a famous beach town with surf shops, tourist attractions, and incredible dining options. Many find it’s the perfect location to explore West Florida.

The city includes roughly 50 miles of coastline, so finding a spot to relax at the beach is easy. It’s known for its incredibly soft, white sand and clear waters. Visitors flock here from spring break until the temperatures drop in the fall. 

Although, there’s also a thriving seasonal community of snowbirds who escape the colder winter temperatures in the north.

Locals are incredibly proud of their military heritage, as the city is the home of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. So if you see a low-flying fighter jet flying over, there’s nothing to worry about. They’re some of the most experienced and skilled pilots in the world.

You’ll find a good mixture of recreation and educational opportunities. Strolling downtown allows you to enjoy shopping at boutiques and restaurants while taking in the unique Spanish architecture. There are also many museums and restored homes in the Historic Pensacola Village.

Many people love that you’re also within driving distance of some of the attractions in the entire state. There’s no excuse to be bored in this neck of the woods!

#1 Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park is approximately an hour and a half from Pensacola. However, it’s one experience that’s well worth the gas. It offers an incredible opportunity for birding, fishing, and geo-seeking. There are also some fantastic designated snorkeling areas.

The pièce de résistance is the park’s natural springs. These unique water features remain a constant 68 degrees year-round. They’re the perfect place to cool off during those intense Florida summers. It may not be the fountain of youth, but you’ll feel like it is.

Hiking is also another common activity here. Two nature trails provide the opportunity to experience the park’s natural beauty. 

You’ll experience thick forests and peek into what the state was like before development. It can be a great way to gain a new appreciation for the vegetation and diversity of Florida’s vegetation.

Set yourself up for snorkeling with this Mask, Fin, and Snorkel Set.

#2 Gulf Islands National Seashore

Another excellent day trip from Pensacola only requires a 30-minute drive to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Adjust your expectations, though, because 80% of this park is underwater. It was established in 1971 and combines islands and marine habitats between Florida and Mississippi. 

Because all of the animals within its boundaries are under protection, you’ll see a tremendous amount of wildlife. Glimpsing birds, sea turtles, dolphins, and other marine life is normal here. 

Despite most of the park being underwater, there are more than seven miles of hiking trails. Many of these trails run along the coast and provide beach access. This can allow you to explore the sand in solitude. 

Additionally, if you’re a history buff, you don’t want to miss Fort Barrancas or Fort Pickens. You can even reserve a spot at the local campground for more time.

Be careful in the water! The Most Dangerous Creatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

#3 Perdido Key State Park

Roughly 40 minutes southwest of Pensacola is Perdido Key State Park. It is popular amongst beachgoers looking to enjoy a variety of activities. The most popular activities are shelling, surfing, swimming, and fishing. In addition, many people walk and run along the shoreline.

Florida’s government established the park in 1980 after the land served as a military base until 1954. It operated under the name Gulf Beach Gunnery Range. 

Fortunately, the buildings have undergone severe erosion due to tropical storms. The result is a tremendous growth of exotic plants throughout the newly shaped sections.

Perdido Key State Park is an excellent option if you’re looking for a relaxing way to spend the day. There are plenty of spots to bring a picnic and spot wildlife. Bring your binoculars or a camera so you can get better views without scaring animals away from you.

#4 DeFuniak Springs

DeFuniak Springs is an hour east of Pensacola and is very close to Ponce De Leon, Florida, which makes it an excellent day trip. But, the highlight of this tiny town is the nearly 40-acre lake that’s almost a perfect circle.

DeFuniak Lake is a unique lake that closed to swimmers in 1964. However, 57 years later, in 2021, it reopened to the public. Now you can freely swim without worrying about receiving a $500 fine.

The town is full of museums, theaters, and historic sites. Suppose you enjoy Victorian-era buildings and reliving the good old days. In that case, the DeFuniak Springs Historic District is the place to explore. 

Don’t miss out on the chance to visit Chautauqua Vineyards and Winery. You can tour their winemaking process and partake in a glass or two of the finished product. 

If you’re looking to escape the chaos of a busy tourist area, DeFuniak Springs is the perfect spot for a retreat.

Photo of a woman kayaking on what could be a day trip from Pensacola to Coldwater Creek.
Kayaking opportunities are plentiful in the Pensacola area

#5 Coldwater Creek

While you’re heading east, stop by Coldwater Creek. It is the self-proclaimed Canoe Capital of Florida. It’s home to a 19-mile paddling trail that can be an exciting way to spend the day. There are even some mini-rapids that can spice up your paddling adventures.

Established in the 1800s as a lumber town, it was incorporated just before Florida became a state in 1844. 

Massive fires ripped through Coldwater Creek in 1885 and again in 1892, destroying significant areas. However, the fire couldn’t extinguish this community’s spirit, and they rebuilt.

While traveling here, be sure to visit the Milton Riverwalk and capture the view of the Blackwater River. It connects with the many restaurants and shops that are a part of the Historic Downtown. 

You can also tour the West Florida Railroad Museum, walk around the Veterans Memorial Plaza, or picnic at Blackwater River State Park.

Find a great place to stay with our 11 Best Campgrounds In Florida.

Pensacola Sets You Up for Excellent Day Trips

As we said, there’s much to see and do around Pensacola. It’s ideal for setting up base camp and exploring West Florida. Plus, you can relax on the beach when you need a break from adventuring. In addition, when you need to get away from the crowds, you can sneak away to one of the many historic small towns. It truly is a magical place to visit!

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